The Loaded Trunk was founded by Jonna Robison, an interior designer with a deep curiosity and passion for traveling the world, connecting with artisans in different cultures and sourcing unique and beautiful objets d’art. Published seasonally, the magazine features a curated collection of travel, lifestyle, nature, art and design inspiration for a life well lived.
inspired by nature
bring it home
The Beautiful Beaches of Laguna
A Luxurious Escape to the Sahara Desert
Swedish Strawberry Cake
As I stood mesmerized, in what seemed to be a kaleidoscope, Diana Garreau handed me a delicate antique green stemmed glass, containing sparkling water. Of course it was a lovely antique vessel rather than simply an aluminum can. Everything she touches is beautiful. Her small shop, tucked into a side street in Laguna Beach, is an exuberant wonderland of color, exotic patterns and textures.
This textile and jewelry designer extraordinaire has a fascinating story. The daughter of a French father and an English mother, Diana was born in Madagascar and grew up in Mauritius, Zimbabwe, Australia, Kenya and South Africa. French was her first language. Her multicultural upbringing is truly reflected in her work and career. She obtained her degree in graphic design and, at the age of 23, was running a small advertising studio in Durban. Having a love for the ocean and being a keen boogie boarder, she became involved with the surf industry in South Africa, home to surf brands such as Gotcha.Upon the recommendation of a childhood friend from her years in Zimbabwe, who had relocated to Laguna Beach, she made the transcontinental move from South Africa as a young, scrappy and fearless 29-year-old. She worked as an au pair for all of two weeks, then landed work, through her contacts from the surf industry, and started drawing designs for T-shirts, then expanded her designs. She started really loving the textile world and gaining large numbers of clients, internationally. Diana went on to spend 30 years designing full print collections, from couture swimwear for many global labels and board shorts designs for surf brands to African collections for 100-year-old Dutch wax cloth company, Vlisco, among others. Sports companies, such as Nike and Lululemon, used her fashion-forward prints as well. She maintained a studio in Buenos Aires for a dozen years and traveled to shows in Europe and Brazil. In total, Diana created over 40,000 patterns! All her designs are hand drawn and original from her Laguna Studio.
The textile industry eventually changed and Diana became more interested in creating lasting jewelry, which had been her mode of release from the ever changing world of fashion. “My work in textile prints started naturally going smaller and I started thinking about interiors, especially wallpaper.” She found stonecutters in India and Brazil. Diana began re-establishing her connections with craftspeople in Africa. She has a generous spirit and says, “I can be helping the youth in Africa. I have talents and want to give back. I can work with these people and open their eyes not to design the same thing again and again, but to think on international levels.”
She makes much of her jewelry herself, beading in the evenings with antique African beads, adding precious gems and Tahitian pearls to her designs. The pendants are often shells she finds herself while beach combing with artist Jim Olarte, whose studio is just a few steps up the street.
“I like assembling elements together that would not normally be considered to sit together.” She went on to say, “I’m known for these necklaces, antique micro-mosaic pins that I encase in silver to make a pendant.” She strings the necklace with trading beads and chevrons. She explains the colors work perfectly together because the glass used for the mosaics and the beads came from the same factories in Murano, Italy. Beads, at the time in Africa, were made of clay and easily broken, so when the Portuguese came to open West Africa, thick glass trading beads became a currency, hence their name. So glass beads, made in Murano, went to Africa and the delicate micro mosaic pins and pendants went to the European continent for wealthy clients. I like putting European and African together because that is my heritage.”
Diana still designs textile prints, but that currently accounts for approximately 5%, mostly for longtime clients. She now works mostly for her own brand and is known for her scarves, woven in India and printed with her designs (two collections each year). The most recent collection was based on the theme interiors, “…since we spent last year with our interiors.” She is constantly adding to her cushion collections, one for home in velvet and the other, an outdoor collection made of printed neoprene, all made in the USA.
Another extension to her brand is wallpaper, working on permanent collections made to order. From neutrals to drama-packed designs, she works on commissioned pieces. “I love creating what no one has seen and then changing someone’s living space to make their home come to life, whether through tranquil or statement designs.
Diana hand sketches the elements and has designers digitize them on computer, as she sits with them and directs the placement of each motif. She combines unusual images in her wallpaper designs and has them digitally printed. Her favorite paper to print on is metallic paper, resulting in a luminous quality.
Diana has furniture crafted in Africa, where pieces are upholstered in hand-beading (two chairs are on the way to her shop, hand-beaded with gold glass beads). She has incredibly detailed leather handbags and belts crafted by a woman who lives in the Sahara Desert in Morocco.
Are you feeling overwhelmed yet just by reading this? Let me tell you, my head was SPINNING during the hour I spent in her shop. This woman is truly one of the most creative humans I have ever encountered.
I asked Diana where she finds inspiration. “I like antiquity. I think that someone’s craftsmanship that is of excellence pushes me to keep a high standard of design and finish. Nature inspires me, but it also chills me out. When I can get away from buildings with structure and see a horizon, it makes my mind flow. I think a lot when at the beach and have some fantastic creative dreams. I’m also inspired by texture and by Victorian jewelry. There is so much that gives me inspiration. I love putting symbols and global marks together and making something different out of them. I absolutely love texture. And inks… ink splatters, seeing how ink moves in water. In the mornings I walk with Jim [Olarte] and I take photos. One morning I took a photo of tractor marks, and I returned to my studio and designed a wallpaper with all the tractor marks.”
I asked her how she does it all. She stated, “I don’t have children. I’m dedicated and, through working from such a young age, I’m disciplined.”
However she does it, Diana is certainly a force in the art and design world, and a woman of immense talent.
Website: Diana Garreau
998 Glenneyre St (it’s best to call or email first, as she may be around the corner in her studio).
October 29, 2021
The Loaded Trunk is a travel and lifestyle magazine founded by Jonna Robison, an interior designer with a deep curiosity and passion for traveling the world, connecting with artisans in different cultures and sourcing unique and beautiful objets d’art. Published seasonally, the magazine features a curated collection of travel, lifestyle, nature, art and design inspiration for a life well lived.